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U.S. Governments Advised to Use Open Source 176

An anonymous reader writes "LinuxDevices is reporting that non-profit public policy research group, Committee for Economic Development, has released a 72-page report that takes a look at open standards, open source software, and 'open innovation.' From the article: 'The report concludes that openness should be promoted as a matter of public policy, in order to foster innovation and economic growth in the U.S. and world economies.' The full text [PDF] of the report is also available for download from the CED site."
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U.S. Governments Advised to Use Open Source

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  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:15PM (#15157910)

    From LinuxDevices' summary:
    Open Source Software

            * Governments should not mandate any particular license, such as requiring open source software only; however...

                        o No citizen should be required to use the hardware or software of any particular vendor

                        o International procurements should also supprt inter-operability requirements
    And directly from the report (boldface mine):
    The Council believes there are certain critical functions of government that should be conducted solely with interoperable technology; in these critical areas, no citizen should be required to use the hardware or software of any particular vendor.
    It's fortunate that LinuxDevices included a link to the PDF so we could read it in its entirity (plus, although the report is 72 pages long, only 44 of those pages are the actual report).
  • I always wondered why governments cannot see the benefits without the help of any study. Anyway, I am currently downloading the document. But all governments should be informed of such useful studies. What is good for US governments might be useful for other governments too!
    • by eln ( 21727 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:22PM (#15157987) Homepage
      It's not that governments can't see the benefits, it's that "open source software" as a concept, or various open source companies as a group, can't afford to pay for, or don't want to pay for, the kind of access (lobbyists) necessary to get get this sort of thing done.
    • I always wondered why governments cannot see the benefits without the help of any study.

      Because the clueless people in control need a stack of official-looking paper full of things they don't understand in order to reassure themselves and others that some non-clueless people think it's a good idea.

      Really, all these "studies" could be filled with nothing but Pink Floyd lyrics after the first few pages, and nobody would ever notice.

    • by east coast ( 590680 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:28PM (#15158054)
      I always wondered why governments cannot see the benefits without the help of any study.

      Perhaps it's because the guys in control of the purse string and those making the grand decisions are honest enough to say "I don't know about this, let's get an experts opinion. On the way maybe they can answer a few questions for us." That's my guess. It's a far better system than the airchair engineers here on Slashdot who think that they have some grand insight into the workings of the universe even tho they're normally just self-titled "geeks" who think that a 30 minute show on the Discovery Channel makes them qualified to make sweeping statements on any given topic instead of asking questions on what they think they know.

      It reminds me of a recent story from my brother; He sent my 14 year old nephew out to start the car on a cold day to let it warm up as he got ready to go someplace. My nephew returned after starting the car and said that he now knows how to drive... It's a sad statement but there are a ton of people out there who think this way. While I'm not saying that someone's ideas should be discounted if they don't have a masters in some field of study at the same time we should be honest enough to admit that there are areas we know little about. Admitting to that shouldn't make the confessor a target of bad jokes, it should be a sign that they're willing to learn from those who know more.
      • Is an air chair an aluminium garden chair attached to large helium balloons?
      • This needs to be balanced with the fact that many subjects simply do not need an "expert" to understand. No matter how many years you have studied the earths atmosphere, and how many degrees you have, I still don't need you to tell me what color the sky is. Things like, "Is it good for the people when the government mandates reliance on a corporation, and requires the people to purchase products from a specific corporation to take part in society?", simply do not need an "expert" to answer.
        • This needs to be balanced with the fact that many subjects simply do not need an "expert" to understand.

          That's why I said (and I quote!) "While I'm not saying that someone's ideas should be discounted if they don't have a masters in some field of study at the same time we should be honest enough to admit that there are areas we know little about."

          Things like, "Is it good for the people when the government mandates reliance on a corporation, and requires the people to purchase products from a specific co
    • You raise excellent points.

      Now, let us contact all other countries and get them to start their own studies about this exact same topic!!
      • Re:Wonderful idea! (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        One of the problems with the Gov. switching over to Open Source is cost. You would have to convert all current documents, stop any process that is currently going on, and then you have training. MS Office is the office suite for the U.S. Gov, and they get such a good deal that it is more cost effective to stay with them. They also have a program that lets Gov. employees purchase Office 2003 Pro for $20 and Windows XP Pro for $60.

        We are encourged to use Open Source where applicable, such as Linux for certain
        • This isn't quite true. You wouldn't have to convert all of the past documents. As long as they're just sitting in place (on disk or wherever), they're fine in their current formats, provided a open-source interpreter / reader exists. Then they can be converted to the new, open format on demand, when they're accessed or needed. (This isn't much of a trick, I remember old versions of Clarisworks that would do this with old documents: open an old document and it would open, but on save you'd be prompted to cre
    • I always wondered why governments cannot see the benefits without the help of any study.
      Because all their other information about this kind of thing comes directly from lobbyists bankrolled by the proprietary software industry.
    • i think if you know anything about how hard it is to explain this stuff to old people, you'd not be surprised that the geezers in our government are slow to catch on.
  • by tradiuz ( 926664 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:15PM (#15157918)
    I wonder how many old guard politicians will be considering anything "open" and "free" to be of a Communist nature?
    • Remember, freedom is slavery. Best stay away from it.

      Z.

    • Communism = old and busted
      Terrorism = teh new hawtness
    • Hey, according to the doctrine, Communism is anything BUT free and open. Remember, iron curtain and all that? Freedom and openness is, if anything, the good ol' American way!

      I'd expect some of the "new right wingers" to oppose it rather than the old school Reps.
  • by tcopeland ( 32225 ) * <tomNO@SPAMthomasleecopeland.com> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:16PM (#15157924) Homepage
    From page 32:
    A "Slashdot for prior art" should be the goal.
    Very nice. And, getindi [getindi.com]!
    • If that's the only mention, it's pretty bad. Why? Because "Slashdot" doesn't mean anything to most government types, and if they're the intended readership of this report, then it indicates a pretty poor writing style: dropping a random word that they're not likely to understand in, and then never defining it or using it again.

      I hope that there's a glossary somewhere that explains what "Slashdot" is.
      • The slashdot comment includes a footnote:

        Slashdot is a popular website that features short summaries of technology-related news articles from a wide variety of other websites. Readers are provided with a link to the original website, should they wish to read the article in its entirety, and can also post their comments regarding the article on the Slashdot website. The editors of Slashdot are responsible for accepting or rejecting news articles, which are generally submitted by Slashdot readers.

      • There was a helpful footnote for the uninformed reader:
        Slashdot is a popular website that features short summaries of technology-related news articles from a wide variety of other websites. Readers are provided with a link to the original website, should they wish to read the article in its entirety, and can also post their comments regarding the article on the Slashdot website. The editors of Slashdot are responsible for accepting or rejecting news articles, which are generally submitted by Slashdot read
  • Devil's Advocate... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pillbug22 ( 932903 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:17PM (#15157938)

    "should be promoted as a matter of public policy, in order to foster innovation and economic growth in the U.S. and world economies."

    Devil's advocate: I've found that as a general rule, people are motivated by money, thus motivated to invent when a paycheck is on the line. Plus, if a "no name" from a small economy invents something new and grand enough for everyone to want it, then by chargin for their product they would be causing their econmy to grow.

    ...just thinking out loud...

    • well your general rule is simply wrong.
    • . . .thus motivated to invent when a paycheck is on the line.

      Labor can be motivated by money. Invention cannot.

      . . .then by chargin for their product they would be causing their econmy to grow.

      Simply charging for something does not create wealth, it just moves money around. Money is just a bit of paper that represents something. If there is no something behind the money there is very little point in moving it.

      There is very little something behind most software, thus most software expenditures are a drain on
    • Oh boy, you just opened the door for the clove cigarette smoking, beret wearing theorists to start expounding their utterly improbably drivel about the nature of man in the consumer society.

      Air America needs them to listen to their radios instead of reading /. - how dare you?

      Shame on you.
  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:17PM (#15157942) Homepage
    I don't doubt that open formats/stds/source is in the public interest. That's why copyrights expire (eventually, at least in theory). Protecting IP rights is in the individual's interest. It then becomes a matter of balancing rights to achieve the desired aims (usually economic growth).

    The problem is that US legislators are often unduly influenced [bought] by campaign contributions. This will tip the scale. I give you the Sunny Bono Copyright Extention Act of 1996 as evidence.

    • It seems very clear to me that the results of research or engineering paid for with public funds should be held in the public domain.

      I think ALL government science should be done under some form of BSD license.
      • Mostly agree, but that really depends upon the purpose of the money. Lets say I get a grant from the government to open a research facility. The grants purpose is purly economic development. IE they are interested in new research happening in XY city for the purpose of economic growth. Mandating that research be public domain wouldn't give that grant earner any chance of making money to get off the government tit. While one could make the argument that the government shouldn't be giving out money for this
      • Agreed; also, I think that medical research conducted with taxpayer dollars should have to be published openly. I'm not saying that it has to be under the GFDL or anything, but it has to be available for public review, not closed up in some expensive journal that doesn't let you submit anything unless you agree never to publish it elsewhere.

        The U.S. government is the biggest single supporter of medical research (that I know of) in the world, I'd sure like to be able to see the results of my money.

        If you wan
  • My favorite part (Score:1, Interesting)

    by JPribe ( 946570 )
    FTpdf:
    The Patent and Trademark Office should make increased use of the Internet in seeking to document "prior art," particularly in the area of information technology, where the Internet provides new capabilities to reach the most knowledgeable commentators. A "Slashdot for prior art" should be the goal.
    /. ref wins!!!
  • I don't see how using open source would help the economy. In order to boost an economy, people need to buy things, and last time I checked, free open source software was *free*. Free means it doesn't cost money, and if it doesn't cost money, no one is buying it. If enough people switch to free software, the economy will be hurt rather than helped.
    • Re:Open Source (Score:2, Insightful)

      by celardore ( 844933 )
      Maybe if 'the economy' didn't have to spend thousands upon thousands on Microsoft licences, there would be more money to spend in areas other than Microsoft.
      • It doesn't matter how we spend the money, only that it gets spent on something, and as long as that something came from inside the country.
        • It doesn't matter how we spend the money, only that it gets spent on something, and as long as that something came from inside the country.

          Exactly. There are a lot of brainwashed free software people out there that just don't seem to understand that what's good for Microsoft is what is good for America. America isn't into manufacturing goods as much as it used to so it needs to rely on new and innovative companies like Microsoft to market technology, services, and intellectual property to remain prosper

          • This is incredibly shortsighted. You seem to assume that if a lot of money wasn't flowing to Microsoft, it would just be going elsewhere, to China or something. This isn't true, the U.S. could still have it's dominant position in software and information technologies, without having crushed the field in the way that Microsoft has. In fact, the dominance of Microsoft and our economic reliance on it can only be a bad thing in the long run, since it means we're setting ourselves up for a great fall when Micros
        • Oh yes it DOES depend on how we spend the money. What kind of nonsense is this?

          Public money that is currently going to MS (and other commercial licenses) COULD go to:

          • AIDS Research
          • Leukemia and Cancer Research
          • National Defense
          • Space Exploration
          • Social Programs
          • Back to the TAXPAYER if not NEEDED to buy software


          as just a few examples. Really, do you actually PAY taxes?
          • I've bought 2 copies of windows - 95 and XP, plus a copy of Office. One OEM, one out of pocket - grand total to Microsoft, lifetime about $250.

            You are majoring in the minors. I chose to buy those licenses because I feel more productive in Windows than in MacOS, and because quite frankly at the purchase of Win95 Linux wasn't mature enough, and at the purchase of WinXP I wanted to play games. I made the choice. I want Windows. A lot of us do. Microsoft actually does a lot of cool stuff, its too bad that the
            • Straw man. One individual purcaser of Windows doesn't matter, but a few thousand or hundred thousand does. And that's the scale we're talking about when you start getting into government mandates.

              If the government decides to use Format X, not only do all of the government's systems have to be upgraded to use this format, but everyone who wants to interact with the government needs to toe the line as well. That was the problem in Massachusetts: by using Microsoft Word, they were effectively telling citizens
              • How much more diverse would the PC field be right now, if it wasn't for Microsoft Windows and Office?

                So everyone using Linux 2.2.6 and OpenOffice 2 is better than WindowsXP and OpenOffice? I fail to see the difference. Either way you have a staunch majority and lack the divertiy you seek.

                If the government decides to use Format X, not only do all of the government's systems have to be upgraded to use this format, but everyone who wants to interact with the government needs to toe the line as well.

                Ye
        • Re:Open Source (Score:5, Insightful)

          by moultano ( 714440 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:59PM (#15158308)
          It doesn't matter how we spend the money, only that it gets spent on something, and as long as that something came from inside the country.

          Wow. I can see consumerist education has really taken root. Believe it or not, it is not your public duty to buy more stuff.

          Suppose the government spent all of its money paying people to dig holes and fill them back in. It's spending, and its certainly spending within this country, but it clearly isn't good for the economy. Why do you think that is?

          Spending doesn't boost an economy. Useful production does. Spending only has a positive effect on the economy to the extend that it promotes useful production. For more information on this, look up Opportunity Costs. Also, if you are concerned about spending money on American goods as opposed to others, may I suggest that you read up on the Ricardian theory of International Trade.
        • Re:Open Source (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mrchaotica ( 681592 )
          See: Broken Window Fallacy [wikipedia.org]

          The bottom line is that spending the money on something else instead of proprietary software licenses makes the economy more efficient, and is therefore a good thing.
    • by babbling ( 952366 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:34PM (#15158108)
      No one buys oxygen, either, but the economy seems to be holding up okay despite that. Don't give yourself a migraine worrying about oxygen being free, will you?
    • and to help you do that, i've just written a handy 'hello world' program in c. i'll sell you the binary for 1000$.
      don't worry, you don't have to decide now, just get back to me as soon as you're ready.

      howie
    • Free as in available, not free as in beer.

      Open Source means that you can take a look at the source code. Not that you needn't pay for using it. Or that you may use it however you want. BIG difference.

      Of course you can make money with OS software. If someone wants to use it, in whole or part, he has to pay royalties (depending on the license). Sure, some companies will try to get away with ripping it, but as it's been seen in the past, such attempts rarely remain secret. And the bigger the company (and the m
    • In order to boost an economy, people need to buy things, and last time I checked, free open source software was *free*.

      NOT TRUE! In order to boost an economy, people need to PRODUCE things.

      For most market transactions, it happens that if someone is going to produce things someone has to be willing to buy them, which is where your confusion comes from. However, if someone makes useful stuff and gives it away for free, that is as beneficial for the economy as if someone produces the same amount of stuff
    • I'm all in favor of open *standards* for public documents, but that doesn't mean vendors can't offer solutions that cost money, either in license or support fees. It's called competition, and it's what we basically don't have in the desktop market today. The MS-Office format lock-in precludes competitors from getting in; widespread adoption of something like ODF puts multiple vendors on a level playing field, and yes, allows for free/open-source implementations as well. It also facilitates looking at oth
    • Actually, I take this back. By not paying for software, people have more money that can be invested, and THAT will boost the economy more than consumption. Of course, it only helps if people invest, if they just sit on the money it harms the economy.
    • Life, which you so nobly serve, comes from destruction, disorder and chaos. Take this empty glass. Here it is, peaceful, serene and boring. But if it is...destroyed...look at all these little things. So busy now. Notice how each one is useful. What a lovely ballet ensues so full of form and color. Now, think about all those people that created them. Technicians, engineers, hundreds of people who'll be able to feed their children tonight so those children can grow up big and strong and have little teeny ween
    • Re:Open Source (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:01PM (#15158334)

      I don't see how using open source would help the economy. In order to boost an economy, people need to buy things, and last time I checked, free open source software was *free*. Free means it doesn't cost money, and if it doesn't cost money, no one is buying it. If enough people switch to free software, the economy will be hurt rather than helped.

      This is why Econ-101 is mandatory for most 4 year degrees. Most software is tools. That is to say, most is infrastructure cost for a business or individual. There are a few exceptions, like games where it is an end product. People, companies, and organizations buy tools to accomplish other tasks. Take automobiles, for example. Businesses and individuals use them to get from place to place and to transport things. They are tools. Suppose all of a sudden some buddhist monk has a revelation. Energy and matter exist only in the mind so using this simple technique you can instantly transport yourself and everything you are carrying anywhere you want. *Poof* the world is a very different place. Free transportation takes the world by storm. All the auto companies that don't sell recreational vehicles go under. What a huge loss to the economy right? All those billions aren't being spent building cars and selling cars and buying cars. Hundreds of thousands of auto workers, salesmen, and managers need to find new jobs. Other industries take a huge hit as well, like insurance, gas, and steel. It's a disaster.

      But wait, lets think about this just a little bit more. Most of the people in the US still have jobs and now they all have eliminated a huge expense from their budget. They don't have to buy a car, insurance, or gas. What do all these people do with the money? Well, they certainly vacation a lot more, since travel is now so cheap. They buy bigger houses. They buy more clothes. They invest and they spend. And all those companies that used to buy trucks for freight? Now they have fewer expenses. They can lower their prices or invest in R&D or expansion.

      There are a whole lot of things wrong with my previous example. Learning how to teleport using our minds would be much, much more disruptive than widespread adoption of free software. The point I hope it illustrates is that making tools more efficiently (the shared cost of open source with little or no overhead is much less than the cost of buying closed source software that does the same. It is like the ultimate price cut. Pay only for what you need that no one else has already paid for. Everyone saves a big expense, an expense that exists solely due to an inefficient production and distribution system. It does not take money out of the economy, it merely shifts that money around to production of end-user products rather than intermediate tools.

      In any case it is a mistake to believe open source software is free. If you get a new car for helping someone build a house is the car free? It cost no money. Open source software is similar. You pay by agreeing to the terms of the license. Your payment for downloading a copy of OpenOffice is that you agree if you make any changes to the code and distribute that code, you let everyone else who agrees to the license have it too. Some would call this very cheap. Others would disagree, but I don't think it is possible to say it is free as in beer.

      What it is is very, very efficient. Since it costs basically nothing to make a copy, you pay only for changes you want made and you pay that cost for everyone after you. Looking back at the auto industry, a man came up with a way to build cars faster and cheaper. His name was Ford and he applied the assembly line to the auto industry. Now fewer people could make more cars, faster, with less training. It did not ruin the economy it made a huge positive impact. Similarly, the availability to everyone of code and binaries to accomplish most any task will not ruin the computer industry, rather it will make it more efficient and benefit all.

      Given the efficiency of this method, it is almost certai

      • Others would disagree, but I don't think it is possible to say it is free as in beer.

        In fact, I do disagree. The free as in beer model is someone gives you a beer, you consume the beer. It has not cost you anything. Now let us go backwards to what comes before the previously quoted sentence:

        Open source software is similar. You pay by agreeing to the terms of the license. Your payment for downloading a copy of OpenOffice is that you agree if you make any changes to the code and distribute that code

        • I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at. If someone gives me a beer, it is mine to do with what I will. I can drink it and all is good. Open source licenses, however, do not quite fit with that analogy. First, the user is making a copy. They go out and get the software from somewhere, usually it is downloaded. This is like someone setting up a refrigerator with a sign on it that says if you agree to this license which is posted, you may take a free beer. If you don't agree to the license, it is ill

          • Free to use, less than free to distribute. Actually, you can't redistribute beer willy-nilly, either. Individuals can give away beer, but there are laws regarding giving away beer if you're a company/corporation and in some states (like California) corporations can not give away beer. I work in a Tribal Casino in Northern California and we are not permitted to give away free alcohol.
      • Very well said. I tried to say something similar elsewhere, but I think you did a better job.

        One thing I'd like to hammer home is the redundancy argument: with closed-source software, everyone pays for the same thing, OVER AND OVER again. I buy Windows, you buy Windows. We both got the exact same thing. With free software, you don't pay for the copy of the software, you pay to make that software better for you. It's only "free" (as in beer) if it does exactly what you want it to do out of the box, if it doe
      • I don't see how using open source would help the economy. In order to boost an economy, people need to buy things

        Pretty common viewpoint though, isn't it? If it weren't, people in the U.S. would have -- oh, let's just speculate wildly -- something like national health care because healthier people can be more productive to the economy. Instead, it's more common to think that preventive health isn't sexy. The big money is in crisis care and long term care products for heart disease and diabetes, for examp
    • I don't see how using open source would help the economy. In order to boost an economy, people need to buy things, and last time I checked, free open source software was *free*. Free means it doesn't cost money, and if it doesn't cost money, no one is buying it. If enough people switch to free software, the economy will be hurt rather than helped.

      Buying is only a portion of what is needed to have a better economy, don't forget selling. If free software makes it easier for people to produce other things and
    • In the old days I'd buy a book to document something in Linux and would get the latest slackware cd for free in effect, buy documentation get software for free, or I'd buy windows and get the book, in effect buying the software and getting the documention for free; now with windows I don't get the book! Now I buy SuSE for free and get paid installation support I'll never need or I can buy Windows and get support I have to pay extra for; the net effect is I'm going to pay about the same.

      Might it not be more
  • Of course their report would be an a standards based and open format like RTF or text, right?
    • Re:Report format (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheLinuxSRC ( 683475 )
      I believe the PDF standard [wikipedia.org] is open in that you can implement it in your software without paying royalties to Adobe.
    • Re:Report format (Score:3, Informative)

      Of course their report would be an a standards based and open format like RTF or text, right?

      Yes and no. Yes, it uses PDF for which there are open standards (ISO 15930 and ISO 19005 to name only a couple). No, that's not much like RTF, for which there is not (TTBOMK) an open standard. After Microsoft releases a new version of Word, they (at least usually) publish a specification of the format of RTF files it'll produce -- but that's not much like an open standard process where other interested parties

  • Some might say that opensource opens the possibilities for threats. We know that this is not the case, but I'm interested to see if this document gets through the first wave of government readers.
  • full circle (jerk) (Score:5, Informative)

    by yagu ( 721525 ) * <yayagu AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:29PM (#15158067) Journal

    What I find curious, amazing, confounding is this whole thing seems to be full circle for what I remember the government doing a LONG time ago! And, it is and was one of the fundamental original underpinnings of some of the Microsoft shenanigans in the early 1990s.

    I worked on some government contracts circa 1985, and I remember a movement in the government contracting to require new contracts for computer services to be POSIX compliant. I also remember thinking how cool of an approach that was, especially considering it was a government initiative. Anyway, lots of fun programming, lots of fun (and hard) work and all on a Unix (SunOS) platform... yeah, it was even fun though we were using SunView (look it up).

    Enter Microsoft, late 1980s, and 1990 on. They sorely wanted to get into the big government contract business, and as one of their boasts for their new and improved OS (NT), they talked loud and long about NT being a POSIX OS (not an OS with a POSIX subsystem, a POSIX OS). Heck they even convinced me to come work for them for a while, until in a closed door presentation, the project manager for the POSIX subsystem prefaced her notes by saying (and I'm paraphrasing, but it's close to a quote), "Before we start, I just want to point out that we don't care about this subsystem, we don't intend to use it, and we don't intend to support it. It's just a check-box for government contracts."

    And, now the government is back to recommending Open Source and "open innovation". I only wonder if this has any impact on Microsoft this time. It didn't before, I'm guessing it won't now. Sigh.

  • by abigsmurf ( 919188 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:32PM (#15158093)
    I note the digital connections council is headed by someone from IBM and features a number of companies from pro-open source companies and institutions such as universities and Nokia as well as lots of companies that would benefit from open source. If a report came and featured a council comprosed of the equilivant anti-OSS people (ie headed by a microsoft spokesperson) people here would be screaming bloody murder.
    • If a report came and featured a council comprosed of the equilivant anti-OSS people (ie headed by a microsoft spokesperson) people here would be screaming bloody murder.

      Not if the report said the same thing.
  • But Congressperson/Senator the BSA is committed to open standards.

    -Everyone can use word documents.
    -There is a standard in place and we manage it very well thank you.
    -Enforcing a single standard denies the market the ability to choose the better standard.

    Today's Lesson: What is painfully obvious to the average ./'er is anything but. This will go on for a solid 10 years before there's some meaningful adoption in the U.S.

  • Less money on software should mean lower taxes or tax money used in other areas. That should be the main argument for open source. There would be other benefits, like avoidance of vender lock-in.

    In determining how the government should run itself, fairness is lower on the list. For me at least.
  • by LaughingCoder ( 914424 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:05PM (#15158370)
    Whenever the government implements sweeping policies such as those discussed in this article there are unintended consequences which, in the end, oftentimes dwarf the predicted benefits of the policy. The classic example of this of course is when FDR implemented a wage freeze during WWII. Clever companies, in order to keep and attract good employees, began to offer to pay for their employees' health insurance. Fast forward 60 years and look at the mess that helped to create.

    So, what sort of unintended consequences would a mandate to use OSS/standards-based software bring about? Well, armed with the sourcecode, it is easy to envision government IT people customizing the application in order to "better integrate with their work procedures" or "enhance the security". Play this out over 10 years and what you wind up with is chaos, with the very thing you were hoping to achieve (interoperability) lost in a myriad of incompatible, "enhanced" applications.

    "Embrace and extend" is human nature, it is not just a Microsoft failing.
    • This is no where near as broad as you are amking it out to be. This is not proposed to mandate what the public should do, but what the government CAN'T do, and that is use a proprietay format that requires everyone else to use the same proprietary format to inter-operate with the government. Since it is the government, we are foced to deal with them, by using a proprietary format they then give a monopoly to that format. If the use an open format then anyone is allowed to make the tools necessary to util
      • Hmmm, to answer your question off the top of my head ... future changes to the document format could potentially need to be "approved" by the government. Or, more likely, the government might choose to remain at a particular revision rather than incur the cost of upgrading every system. Imagine if all submissions to the government had to be in Word 1.0 DOC format. How painful would that be today? I suppose it could stimulate the economy by creating make-work type services (a government specialty) to convert
        • The fewer policies the better. There is no end of problems we can point to that resulted from "things that seemed like a good idea at the time".

          This is true, and I agree with you heartily on not doing things just for the sake of "doing something." However I think it's important to point out that there are situations, and I think this is one of them, where if you don't take some sort of action you allow something else to occur by default.

          In other words, there already IS a policy on electronic documents, it's
  • How many US Governments are there anyhow?
  • by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:17PM (#15158483) Homepage Journal
    I think governments need to concentrate less one whether software is open source or not and concentrate instead on open document formats. I say this because, I feel that dead open source or dead closed source ends up being the same issue. With open document formats at least you can get hold of a new application and ask them to do the effort to support the format. Who do you ask if your product no longer has a development team, or volounteers, to support it?
    • I feel that dead open source or dead closed source ends up being the same issue.

      You may feel that way, but there are some substantial differences.

      Open Source can't really "die" as long as someone has a copy of the source. It can only be "mostly dead". Someone who has the source can always modify it to work elsewhere. At very least the source can be used to understand clearly what the file format is so they can retrieve the data.

      A closed source application can die because it the company decides to stop produ
  • to use open source software. The problem is partly with the fact that many people percieve MS Office products as the only office products worth using out there.

    MS hasn't exactly been forthcoming with opening up their Office software documents' standards. And if you couple that fact to the fact that MS Office doesn't run well on anything except MS Windows or a Mac, you get the problem that we have today.

    I am typing this from a machine with Win XP on it, and Office 2003.

    I used to work for a private

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